CSOs: Yolanda-level of destruction to be expected from storms given current environment, adaptation policies

Civil society organizations express distress over the current environmental, economic, and disaster risk reduction policies in place, as a Yolanda-level of disaster is set to befall the Philippines in the coming days.

“The level of destruction forecasted and anticipated is even more unsettling considering the trajectory of environmental policies under the Duterte administration,” said Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances. “With the loosening up of policies on mining and tree-cutting, and the current crisis on food sovereignty and security, we fear whether we have sufficiently employed the lessons we should have learned from Typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan) from five years ago,” Arances stated.

“The need for adaptation in light of impending climate disasters seems to be disregarded in the Administration’s implementation of mining policies,” said Arances. “The opening up of new mineral reservation areas by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the failure to publicly release the results of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) which acquitted at least 23 suspended mining companies of fault, and the unfulfilled promise of a ban on open-pit mining casts doubt on Sec. Roy Cimatu and President Duterte’s prioritization of the Filipino people’s environmental rights and survival,” he continued.

CSOs: Agriculture and fisheries sector in the forefront of calamities

“It is those who are at the forefront of our disastrous economic state who always lose the most during these disasters,” said Bulig Pilipinas Executive Director Atty. Aaron Pedrosa. “Based on our experience from Typhoon Yolanda, not only are we expecting a massive scale of destruction of crops, we also anticipate massive displacement during the supposed ‘rehabilitation’ in the aftermath of the storm,” Pedrosa cited.

Almost P138.6 M worth of crops were destroyed during the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, recalled Pedrosa, which will spell unimaginable harm to the prices of agricultural commodities given their already increasing prices at present. Meanwhile, the assignment of “no-build zones” have adversely affected coastal communities who rely on the sea for food and livelihood.

“We implore the President to shift his focus on politics and posturing towards responding to the urgent needs of farmers, fishers, and other sectors who are already suffering from the country’s economy,” said Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary of the CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA), Caritas Pilipinas.

“These very same people stand to suffer the most from another possible Yolanda, if their sources of livelihood are not protected not only from climate-related disasters, but also from economic policies which threaten food security and food sovereignty,” Fr. Gariguez continued.

Deforestation threatens natural protective barriers, groups say

Recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) relaxed its rules on the cutting and relocation of trees affected by the construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.

“Disrupting the ecological balance of protective barriers like the Sierra Madre Mountain range will not only destroy the lives and livelihood of indigenous peoples and communities who rely on her, but will also threaten the very survival of populations which she protects,” said Fr. Pete Montallana, president of Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA).

“Time and again, Sierra Madre has spared population centers from widespread destruction from the typhoons which passed through the mountain range,” Fr. Montallana discussed. “However, deforestation through indiscriminate logging, destructive agricultural practices and other environmentally-hazardous projects have weakened our natural barriers against typhoons,” Fr. Montallana continued.

“Loosening up policies on securing logging and mining permits is unthinkable given how much Filipinos stand to lose from landslides and flooding because of such practices,” added Atty. Pedrosa. “Instead of mitigating disaster and the level of destruction which we will experience during climate disasters, we are setting up a repeat of disasters which we have already experienced, like the Infanta, Quezon flashflood of 2004, and the devastation of 2009’s Typhoon Ondoy from and 2013’s Typhoon Yolanda,” he concluded.